(This post is part of a series, you can start here or the view the previous post. You can also checkout the Google Photos album, which has all the pictures I took, as well as those of Mikel and Jesse.)
I started the day by waking up before the guys and taking a shower without them even knowing. The Airbnb was cramped, creaky and generally not my favorite but apparently the sound insulation between the shower and the guys’ room is great. I felt a little sick in the morning, consistent with the last couple days, but fortunately it was fine. Phew!
Today was a between-lodging day, we had to checkout of the Airbnb at 11am and we could check-in to our hotel in Tokyo as early as 3pm. The plan wasn’t to go straight between them anyway, we were going from Osaka in the morning to Kyoto for the day and crashing in Tokyo for the night, so we’re close to the airport. We didn’t plan anything for tomorrow, but our flight isn’t until nearly 8pm so in retrospect we really could have stayed wherever. That, or pick a different departure airport. Oh well.
So anyway, today’s plan was to start in Osaka, stash our big bags at the Kyoto station, go to Nara Park from there, and then go to the bamboo forest. We decided last-minute to do Nara Park first. I forget why. It wasn’t a good reason or anything.
I thought we’d have to walk ~15 minutes from the station, but basically as soon as we walked out of the station there were deer:
There’s not much to say about Nara Park. The city had a good vibe – family-friendly, small. We bought crackers for the deer from street vendors for 150 yen (<$1.50). It was fun, and the pictures below are the real part of the post. I will say though almost all the deer were super nice but one of them grabbed the dangling part of my hat and bit my jacket and that was cute.
We got some good videos. Here’s one of Mikel feeding all his crackers to a single deer (23s), here’s one of Jesse petting a deer (7s), and here’s one of Jesse bowing to a deer and it bowing back (arguably more of a nod, 12s).
After enjoying the deer a bit, we got lunch in Nara. We went to a sushi-boat place, which was a lot better than the previous one! The payment system was interesting, they had a scanner which seemed to use chips in the plates to figure out how much to charge you. The sashimi was pretty:
From Nara Park, we went to the bamboo forest. It turns out it was in the exact opposite direction to Kyoto so that kinda sucked, it was about two hours. And it wasn’t an easy two hours, like the bullet train I’m currently on as I write this was, instead we took four different trains and twice Google Maps got the train line wrong and we had to figure that out.
Anyway the bamboo forest was off of a little town, Arashiyama. I liked the vibe there too. The Kyoto area was definitely nicer than Osaka in terms of our preferences. So we took a short walk from the town and were immediately hiking up hill.
I didn’t expect that, but was thrilled because I had wanted to go hiking on this trip but the only things I found required a four hour round trip and there was no way I was going to subject the guys to that. Anyway we got a bunch of pictures of our hike:
Lots of pictures later, we got to the end of the hike, where Google Maps said the bamboo forest was. Nada. We turned back a little disappointed but I was satisfied with the hike. On the way back though we decided to take a detour toward some temple ruins. We nearly didn’t, but it’s not like we were going to do much else with the day and we made the trip out there so why not, right? We also thought we’d have to backtrack but it turned out that route would actually drop us back into the town, so that was nice.
So Jesse had gone ahead and actually yelled out at us that we were going to be thrilled. I heard running water, so “just” expected a waterfall or something. But it turned out we found the forest!
That’s most of the bamboo forest. The actually thick bamboo part was small and short. Since Google Maps won’t get you there, I’ll try to give better instructions here – head toward Katsura river, and walk along it. If you keep going, you should find it pretty quickly, you don’t have to do any hiking from the city to get to it (though it’s on a hill, so I wouldn’t say it’s handicap-accessible though).
Speaking of the river, it was pretty so I got a few pictures:
And as I said, the town was nice:
Getting back to Kyoto station from Arashiyama took about 50 minutes. When we got there we grabbed our stuff (after a brief panic of wondering if we had dropped it all at a different station), grabbed some snacks, and hopped on the bullet train back to Tokyo.
We arrived in Tokyo around 9:30pm, not having eaten yet. On the bullet train, we looked at food near our hotel and after a bit of looking (limited options so late, un-deciding on a ramen place where someone complained about food poisoning, etc.) we decided on an all-day-breakfast place. I was psyched. We had one local train following the bullet, and unfortunately I accidentally got hit in the head by a hand hold while putting up my duffel bag:
So we got to the hotel, which we booked instead of an Airbnb specifically because we wanted to not worry about anything the night before our flight, and we had some check-in troubles… For some reason, the hotel thought the 2-bed room that Jesse booked was for one person. They wanted to charge nearly $100 for a second person. And the third person? They couldn’t just charge $100, they said a 2-bed room has a limit of 2 people, and we’d have to get another room, and not at the same rate, more like $300 for the night. SHIT. We ate the cost because we just wanted to go to freaking dinner at this point, and we’re privileged enough that the extra cost isn’t going to break the bank.
Mikel did some research, and apparently at least some of this is normal in Japan. We were pretty pissed though. We were hungry at the end of our long day and the people at the hotel were not polite about things at all. In fact, it was almost like they weren’t Japanese! We wondered if it was a language barrier, but Jesse said the tone was rude along with her being totally unapologetic. Jesse worked over ten years in hospitality and his jaw dropped. In cause you’re wondering what hotel to not stay at, it was the Grand Nikko Tokyo Daiba.
So we got to our rooms, with Jesse fuming, and we just wanted to drop our stuff and get to dinner. The all-day-breakfast place was a 10 minute walk, and it was cold and windy. It was close to 10:30pm at this point but the place (according to Google Maps) was open until 11pm so we just hoped the kitchen was open until that time. Alas, the building that housed the restaurant closed at 9pm. Wtf? So our day just got a little worse. Out in the cold wind we had to pick another place. Before I get to that, here was a pretty picture of the view from the breakfast place:
Jesse had seen a meat restaurant on our way, which was also supposed to be open until 11pm. So we had a plan which didn’t require standing around in the cold wind on our phones. Awesome. So we walk over (fortunately it was on our way back) and walk in, relieved to finally get some food. But of course things aren’t that simple, it reeked of smoke, and we immediately walked out. The quality of this vacation has seriously declined as time has gone on!
Also on our way back was a McDonalds, open 24 hours. I haven’t had it for years, and it’s worse than I remember. I didn’t take pictures. I almost feel like I should have for the irony.
So that was the end of our last full day in Japan. Tomorrow we plan to hang at the hotel until checkout, go back to the standing sushi place, and then just head to the airport. Not very glamorous. I probably won’t write a post for tomorrow, but I do plan on writing a retrospective post about the trip / Japan in general. Not going to promise trying to write that one right away though, as I have been for this daily posts (if you’ve noticed them coming out slower, it’s because they’re finished but I’m waiting for at least one of the guys to proofread and give a thumbs-up; kudos to them for all the reading!).
Fitbit step count for the day: 29,526